Fallen Leaves

When I bend low in autumn

to gather fallen leaves

Each one holds a memory

I’m longing to retrieve.

My childhood home before me,

the window up above,

where I beheld each season

the maple tree I loved.

Mother was a gardner

raising corn for harvest.

Father was a builder

with wood and brick an artist.

We children ruled a kingdom

in summer we would seek

to exercise our power

over crawdads in the creek.

The golden leaves speak clearly

of fireflies in jars.

Dreaming by the campfire

and watching shooting stars.

Then the leaves fall silent.

Their voices disappear

Now rise as word on paper

to speak in later years.

The Buzz about Busyness

“Hello, how are you?”

“Busier than I’d like to be.”

Is this your response when you meet a friend? Everyone’s busy. In fact, our culture becomes busier everyday. As Americans we’ve become a nation of multi-taskers who find it difficult to wait at a stoplight without texting.

Our schedules are so crowded we’re uncomfortable with down time. We link our self-importance to our level of activity. The thought of too many blank spaces on our calendar makes us feel unneeded. We complicate our lives further by projecting our self-image through social media. We are addicted to non-stop interaction in a virtual world.

Even before the rise of Facebook, I was busy. As a mother of two children, mastering the ability to multi-task helped me survive the demands on my day. When I got home from work, I usually prepared dinner while I helped my kids with their homework. As an elementary teacher, I became a pro at taking attendance, listening to morning announcements, and monitoring the students simultaneously. Every year I became more goal driven in my efforts to be a good teacher, mother, and church member. On Sunday mornings, after I sang with the worship team, I raced to help with children’s church. I was beyond busy…and eventually I burned out.

Retirement ushered in a major lifestyle change for me. After considering several creative interests, I decided to pursue one hobby—writing. I also cut back on my volunteer work. In this season of my life, my old self tries to make me feel guilty about how happy I am. (I’ve also discovered it’s impossible to multi-task while I write.)

Is all busyness bad?

Bees are busy. They work all day flitting from flower to flower collecting pollen in order to fulfill God’s plan. I’ve never seen a stressed-out bee. They’re focused on the one mission they were created to do. Like the bees, each one of us has God-given talents which he purposed for us to use. When we stray from our destiny, we flounder.

The busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things.” —Kevin DeYoung, author of Crazy Busy.

In addition to working hard at the wrong thing, we can also work for the wrong reason. In my case, compliments from others about “what a good job I was doing” encouraged me to work harder, and take on more responsibilities. I was trying to please man more than God.

A familiar story comes to mind from Scripture. Jesus came to visit Mary and Martha. Upon his arrival, Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She complained about Mary not helping her.

Jesus answered, “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:41,42 (NIV)

Was Martha working hard at the wrong thing?

Was she working for the wrong reason?

Either way, Martha had not chosen what Jesus thought was best. She busied herself with what she thought was important, instead of spending time with him.

We cannot get off the treadmill of busyness until we make the decision to keep our relationship with God our number one priority. After all, isn’t that why he created us?

Dressed for Success

Whether we’re donning shorts and flip flops, or a suit and tie, most people choose how to dress depending upon their plans for the day. Our clothes contribute to our level of comfort and self-confidence. We wouldn’t fight a fire or a war without wearing the proper gear to protect ourselves.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Samuel 17. Here we read the story of David and Goliath. It’s hard to imagine a small shepherd boy facing an angry giant. King Saul thought he would prepare David for battle by dressing him in his own tunic. “He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.” v. 38. David could not move in this heavy armor and discarded it saying, “I cannot go in these, because I am not used to them.” Instead, he put five smooth stones in his shepherd’s bag and raced off to face the Philistine.

You know the rest of the story. David won the battle against Goliath by slinging only one stone, knocking his enemy to the ground. Then he finished Goliath off with the giant’s own sword.

I love this chapter because it expresses something I’ve known in my own life. It’s hard to succeed by wearing someone else’s armor. As a new teacher, I often felt inadequate. The task of managing an environment conducive to learning challenged me. I turned to veteran teachers for advice, which they freely gave. The more teachers I consulted, the more overwhelmed I became because each response was different.

Through prayer I began to reflect upon what skills I already possessed which could be transferred to my new challenge. You see, before I became a teacher I worked as a social worker with diverse groups of children who lived in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio. I remembered how I dealt with conflicts among the children through group discussion. I decided to do what I already knew how to do.

I began to conduct weekly “class meetings” to give the students an opportunity to air their grievances with one another. It worked. Although our “meetings” took up thirty minutes of instruction time each week, the children grew to understand how they could handle conflict on their own and didn’t always need me me to solve all of their squabbles. In addition, the children complimented one another for acts of kindness which built friendship within the class.

Although self-help books and advice from peers have their benefits, what works for others might not work for you. Like David, maybe God has already equipped you with the ability to handle a new challenge by using your skills from past experiences.

Saul wanted to help David. He couldn’t imagine anyone facing Goliath without an armor. But David knew something about himself. He knew he had already killed a lion and a bear with his slingshot. Why wouldn’t God help him now as he squared off with a ten foot Philistine?

All he needed was the right stone… and the same level of faith which carried him in the past. Imagine the conversations among the hundreds of Israelite soldiers who witnessed David’s victory. His success is still talked about today.

Dear reader, I hope this story encourages you whenever you’re feeling intimidated. Don’t compare yourself to others but use the combination of skills and talents that are uniquely yours. You will be dressed for success.